Bloomington AIDS Activism in the 80s

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Social Activism

Post-1986, the Bloomington community began to react to the AIDS crisis in a manner one might expect from a community with disproportionate GLBT representation. In October of 1986, the Indiana University Health Center attempted to start a support group for sufferers of AIDS; it did not attract any participants, though it is unclear whether that was more because the community had not reached a critical mass of HIV-positive individuals or if had more to do with the still-prevalent stigma. However, in 1988, a couple with an HIV-positive son, Doris and Bob Fox, started Project FIND, or Friends INDeed, with the help of the Gay and Lesbian Switchboard and the Bloomington Gay and Lesbian Alliance. This community-organized and –run support network for AIDS sufferers and their families proved far more successful than the University administration-organized attempt of 1986. This may reflect a certain distrust of the University by local queers whose lives are more emphatically rural than the University’s proximity might imply. Two years later, after their son had died, the Fox family was also instrumental in starting the first PFLAG chapter in southern Indiana.

Campus groups also organized consciousness-raising and support events. In February of 1989, a coalition including the GLB student group OUT, the Campus AIDS Task Force, the IU Student Association, the Department of Health and Wellness Education, and the Residence Halls Association sponsored events to recognize AIDS Awareness Week, including panels and a presentation by the president of the American College Health Association, Dr. Richard Keeling.

Academic and Institutional Activism

The University also engaged in significant AIDS activist work.

In true liberal arts college fashion, the Bloomington campus of Indiana University played host to the conference “AIDS and Sex: an Integrated Biomedical and Biobehavioral Approach” between December 5th and 8th, 1987. The conference, which attracted more than 100 experts in a variety of fields, hoped to produce a report on the AIDS crisis that provided not only technical information, but also “cross-cultural” and “historical” perspectives, in addition to an analysis of governmental and institutional policy and education tactics for managing the spread of AIDS.

The University also tried in both 1986 and 1989 to found support groups for AIDS sufferers. However, IU Health Services met with little success in this regard, possibly due to a combination of the fact that Indiana University students did not make up the majority of Monroe County AIDS sufferers and a mild “Town and Gown” animosity between the University and the otherwise largely rural and suburban community.

Transitions: the AIDS Quilt

In 1990, 248 panels of the AIDS Quilt, the product of Cleve Jones’s The Names Project, were brought to IU through the combined efforts of the Bloomington Names Project and the Monroe County AIDS Community Action Group. The portion of the quilt was on display between February 15th and 18th.

This display marked a major transition from the informational approach of earlier AIDS activism to the spectacles and productions of the activism of the coming Queer 90’s. Post-1991, Bloomington continued to see occasional informational panels and presentations on AIDS, but with decreasing frequency. By 1997, Bloomington’s AIDS activism had become dominated by benefit concerts, charity-hosted drag shows, and consciousness-raising spectacles.


Newman, David. 1987. HIV testing at IU health Center. Indiana Daily Student, February 19, Campus.

Fiemeyer, Isabelle. 1987. IU Health Center to begin AIDS victim support group. Indiana daily student. September 29, Campus.

Gordan, Kim. 1987. IU set as future site for AIDS conference. Indiana Daily Student. October 16, Front page.

Gordan, Kim. 1987. Cooperation needed on AIDS experts say. Indiana Daily Student. December 7, Front Page.

Mills, Kim I. "Homosexuals more at risk for attack due to rising AIDS epidemic." Indiana Daily Student, no. 121 (6888): 10.

Daily Student Reports, "HIV support group organized on IU campus ." Indiana Daily Student, no. 121 (92188): 3.

Martin, Jennifer. “Groups team up to sponsor IU’s AIDS Awareness Week.” Indiana Daily Student, February 13th, 1989, Campus Section.

O’Brien, Patti. “Candle vigil remembers 236 Hoosier AIDS deaths.” Indiana Daily Student, Fenruary 17, 1989, Campus Section.

Martin, Jennifer. “Campus, city program provides support for AIDS victims.” Indiana Daily Student, February 17,1989, Campus Section.

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